Petra Kirsch – Gelsenkirchen
Many column inches have been dedicated to what has been described as the first high-profile boxing event of the year as a championship double-header consisting of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Marco Antonio Rubio as well as Nonito Donaire and Wilfredo Vazquez Jr goes down in Texas on Saturday, February 4. However, the San Antonio card has a predecessor as Germany plays host to the highly-anticipated IBF cruiserweight world title rematch between Yoan Pablo Hernandez and Steve Cunningham earlier that evening.
Tough Germany-based Serbian Enad Licina takes on Alexander Alekseev for the EBU belt at 200lbs, while Eduard Gutknecht and Vyacheslav Uzelkov complete the Fraport Arena, Frankfurt card in an EBU light heavyweight title clash.
During a confrontational head-to-head, Cunningham (24-3-0, 12ko) stared down Hernandez – a fighter whom he lost possession of the IBF title to in their last fight – and said: “That is my belt, it is coming back to me.
“You better hug it tonight. I am the real champion. Nobody is going to help you this time. I live, eat, sleep boxing. Nobody ever helped me. No referee helped me up off the ground when I got knocked down. I am worried for you! I am the real champ.”
During the October, 2011 tussle at the Jahnsportforum in Neubrandenburg, Hernandez canvassed Cunningham in round one, however, the latter rallied well, took control of the fight but, in the sixth round, the contest was stopped on account of cuts and therefore went to the scorecards of the judges – who had Cuban southpaw Hernandez ahead at the time.
“It was the wrong decision to stop the fight,” said Cunningham. “All I ask for on Saturday is an equal playing field. Hernandez is a good fighter but I am better. I will prove that I am the best cruiserweight.”
Speaking out on Cunningham’s calls for reclaiming what he believes is rightfully his, Hernandez (25-1-0, 13ko) commented that it is “no problem” for him. He added: “He is American and Americans talk a lot. We’re used to it. I look forward to the rematch. Cunningham is a top cruiserweight, a very strong opponent, but I deserved to win the first fight and I will beat him again. If there is any doubt left that I am better, I will erase all doubts on Saturday night.”
Promoter Wilfried Sauerland said: “The first duel was very dramatic. I disagree with some of the things that happened. I thought that the count in the first round – when Cunningham went down – was too long. And I also disagree with the decision to stop the fight due to the cuts, I think they could have fought on. Now we look forward to a compelling rematch.
“Cunningham and Hernandez are the two best cruiserweights out there. We feel honoured that, on top of the IBF belt, The Ring belt will be at stake. It is going to be very, very interesting.”
On the undercard, emerging cruiserweight Licina (21-3-0, 11ko) promised a fan-friendly contest: “I grew up in Frankfurt and I want to give my fans an entertaining fight. Alekseev is an accomplished fighter but I am tough and I will beat him.”
Opponent Alekseev (22-2-0, 20ko) noted that, to realise his ambitions, he must “win” on fight night. “I want to be the new European champion.”
European light heavyweight ruler Gutknecht (22-1-0, 9ko) honours his mandatory challenger by taking on Uzelkov (25-1-0, 16ko): “He is a very strong opponent but I will remain the champion,” Gutknecht said.
(Embedded video below credit – YouTube, SekondzOut)